If you’ve always dreamt of taking a trip down to Mexico, I don’t blame you. The rich culture, mouth watering cuisines, beautiful beaches, and fascinating history will give you an enthralling experience. But, Mexico is huge, and exploring it all in one go is a no-show.
You don’t want to rush things when traveling to another country; especially in Mexico. You want to explore the sights, stay at the best hotels, eat authentic local cuisine, and most importantly, have fun.
When exploring your options Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta are great places to visit in Mexico. Since both cities sit on the coastline and have many similarities, it can be difficult to decide which one would be worth your time and money.
Today we’re going to be talking about these two destinations, comparing them to see which one is more suitable for travel according to your needs.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Brief History
If you’re interested in history, you’ll love Mazatlan. In the heart of Mazatlan is the Historical Center or Centro Historico.
Walking down the Historical Center you’ll be immersed in Mazatlan’s history. When walking through it, you’ll see historic buildings, theaters, art schools, and much more – each with their own interesting backstories.
Its Golden Zone or Zona Dorada is also located a few miles north of the Historical Center. The Golden Zone is a major tourist destination in Mazatlan filled with many houses and resorts stretching for around 27 km.
Compared to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta offers an experience tailored specifically to tourists. Its uniqueness lies in the old-fashioned vibe it gives making it feel like a trip to the past. Puerto Vallarta is preferred by tourists over other cities as it gives you an authentic feel. Its cobblestone streets and classical architecture have been preserved making it feel like you’re in Old Mexico.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: The Beaches
Both Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta are famous for their beaches. As they both sit on the Mexican coast, they offer the best beach experience with activities like fishing, motor boating, kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, and more
However, both Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan offer things unique to their location. Let’s discuss these more in-depth below and compare the two.
Mazatlan gives an overall more local vibe as compared to Puerto Vallarta. The people are incredibly friendly and hospitable, and will make you feel as if you’re part of their family.
Mazatlan’s coastline is a sight to behold. It stretches extensively for about 21km and is the second-largest sea coast in the world! There is plenty of space for you to roam around and explore since the beach isn’t very crowded.
Mazatlan’s longest beach, the Playa Norte, offers the best swimming areas. Although the water may not be as warm or as refreshing as Puerto Vallarta it’s much calmer due to the lesser number of tourists.
Another popular beach by the name of Playa-Burja is a hot spot for surfing and fishing in Mazatlan. Over here you’ll be sure to see many fishermen getting their daily catch and others enjoying all the beach has to offer.
For the more adventurous types, Mazatlan offers numerous on and off-the-beach activities including
- ATV tours
- Zip Lining
- Scuba Diving
- Big game fishing
Puerto Vallarta is famous for its beaches. It has better beaches than Mazatlan. The sand is softer with a rugged texture that gives off a radiant golden color that instantly catches the eye. Most of its tourist attractions are also located alongside the beach including the Zona Romantica, Punta Negra, Downtown, and the Hotel Zone.
Interestingly, Puerto Vallarta offers more beachside leisure areas and activities than Mazatlan despite the latter having a larger beach. Its fabulous shopping centers, beachside resorts, and restaurants bring life to Mexico’s pacific coast. That’s why when it comes to enjoying your trip, Puerto Vallarta has a lot more things to do than Mazatlan.
Some notable activities to do during your stay in Puerto Vallarta include
- ATV tours
- Rock climbing
- Zip Lining
- Swimming with dolphins
Although Puerto Vallarta may not have the most spacious beaches, it makes up for it through other attractions like the Malecon.
El Malecon is a mile-long boardwalk that stretches alongside the pacific coast. Over here, no vehicles are allowed on the pavement meaning you can have a peaceful stroll whilst gazing at the nearby attractions it has to offer.
Walking on El Malecon is an awe-inspiring experience where you’ll get to see various statues, street performers, and stores.
By walking a few blocks south from the Malecon you’ll see Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta’s most popular beach. Los Muertos often includes a mix of tourists and locals which makes it a great place to get to know the locals and get to know more about them. This beach is the perfect place to finish off the day because you can just kick back and relax while getting a clear view of the glorious sunset.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: The Nightlife.
Mazatlan is calmer than Puerto Vallarta but the nightlife is far from boring. You can head to La Catrina at night to enjoy live music and explore the beachside bars.
The bars in Mazatlan offer some of the finest selection of drinks with a few showcasing live bands. If you’re traveling as a group the Gus Gus and Edgar’s Bar will treat you well and the decor is awesome.
For some belly laughs, you can also visit the Mazatlan Comedy Club which features hilarious comedians from US and Canada.
Puerto Vallarta offers a more stimulating nightlife than Mazatlan. There are also a lot more options to choose from
You can walk on the Malecon, go scuba diving, and visit the nightclub. One of the best nightclubs you can visit during your stay is Chictini by Pinnacle. It offers a broad selection of drinks that taste delicious and an ambiance that embraces you.
Apart from the nightclubs, you can also take a trip to the bars for nightlife. We’d recommend Bar La Playa and Burros Bar as they offer amazing seafood and drinks and are great for groups traveling to Puerto Vallarta.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Costs and Budget
If you’re planning a short vacation or honeymoon then Puerto Vallarta can offer you the biggest bang for your buck. For longer stays on a budget, Mazatlan is the better option as it’s not as expensive and offers the most authentic Mexican experience.
The average daily cost for traveling in Mazatlan can be anywhere around $50-70 and the daily cost for Puerto Vallarta ranges around $70-$100. For couples hotels may cost more: $43 per night in Mazatlan and $85 in Puerto Vallarta.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Best Times to Visit
When planning your trip you should consider the ideal time to visit to make sure you don’t come across any hiccups. You’ll need to consider the different factors before traveling such as the climate and rush times, to ensure you have a safe and comfortable trip during your stay in Mexico.
The climate of Mazatlan is usually hot and dry which makes it better to visit in October/ December. Traveling in June and July should be avoided as these months are much hotter and susceptible to high humidity.
There is also more rainfall in Mazatlan from July to September.So, If you wish to visit during the rainy season, I’d suggest you travel around September, as July would have increasingly high humidity after rain.
Puerto Vallarta has a tropical climate and remains hot and humid throughout the year. November to May is a good time to visit Puerto Vallarta as temperatures are a bit milder. From July to September you’ll see temperatures peak and a lot of rainfall.
Both Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan are crowded during March and April. Students from the U.S. may travel to Mexico during their spring breaks. So if you want to make sure your trip goes smoothly maybe avoid traveling in these months.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Shopping
Both places offer a great shopping experience. If you’re the artsy type and want to take home a few artifacts – you’re in luck!
Aside from the many different shops, the shop owners are also very friendly. They aren’t pushy nor would they hesitate to help you out. Many store owners there also speak at least basic English so hopefully, there won’t be any language barrier either.
Mazatlan is filled with shopping centers that offer traditional souvenirs and handicrafts. There are many shops scattered all over Mazatlan but the best place to explore is the Golden Zone. Here you’ll be able to find the most precious seashells, jewelry, and souvenirs.
You can also take a trip to Mazatlan’s Farmers Market where you’ll see different stalls selling various items from t-shirts to groceries to artifacts.
At the Historical Center, you’ll also see a lot of shops for handicrafts, jewelry, art, and unique gifts. Most of the items you’ll see would be traditionally made.
Since Puerto Vallarta is geared more towards tourists, it understandably has a lot more independent shopping outlets than Mazatlan. However, that also means the prices are higher than Mazatlan since you aren’t getting “local prices.”
The Galerias Vallarta Shopping Mall is great for all your general shopping needs. Over here you can find some great clothing stores, various fast food joints, and the biggest departmental store in Puerto Vallarta, Liverpool. It’s also ideal for families with plenty of cafes, a cinema, and small rides, including a gondola waterfall ride.
Galerias can be a bit overpriced and may feel like any other store. If you want to explore more local and traditional options, you’ll be able to find many handicrafts and souvenir stores along the Malecon.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Grabbing a Bite
Mazatlan’s Playa Norte and Playa Burja beaches offer the best seafood you’ll ever taste. It features several beachside restaurants and street food. Since Mazatlan is closer to the waters and has local prices you can expect to get some cheap food.
We’d recommend trying out Mr. Lionso’s restaurant at Playa Burja or La Costa Marinera in the Golden Zone which is a popular tourist destination as well. La Costa is known for its coconut shrimp and has a lot of positive feedback from tourists and locals alike.
If you’re planning on stopping by at the historical center you need to try out El Presidio – a highly recommended upscale restaurant for couples. The historical center also has a lot of food carts and outdoor cafes. You should try out the local food including the fish tacos, ceviche, and other seafood.
Puerto Vallarta is a hub for some of the most popular local food. During your time at Puerto Vallarta, you should try the Birria tacos, Ceviche, and Chilaquiles.
Birria tacos are a loaded breakfast with beef bathed in broth, a blend of herbs, spices, and chilies with a kick of salsa. It’s one of the most favorite foods for locals in the region and can be found on most street food stands.
Ceviche is a popular seafood dish created with fresh raw fish caught locally at Banderas Bay. You can find it in the Romantic zone in Downtown Puerto Vallarta.
And for lunch Chilaquiles, made with crispy tortillas, served with tender meat, topped with cream, onions, avocado and fried eggs. You can find this delicacy at the Los Muertos Beach in La Palapa restaurant.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta: Places to Stay
As both resort cities sit on the same coast, with the best beaches, it’s fair to say you’d need a place with the best view and comfort. Where you choose to stay depends a lot on what activities you plan on doing and your budget.
We’ve provided different options for both Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta so you can choose the one that fits your budget whilst giving making sure you have a comfortable trip
Villa Serena Centro Historico – Overall Best Option
Located in the heart of the historical center, Villa Serena is a historic building with great rooms at affordable rates. It features cozy apartments within closed spaces, a beautiful interior, a refreshing atmosphere, and a hot tub. It’s just a 5-min walk away from the beaches and has nearby cafes and plazas which you can visit.
Hotel Boutique Casa Lulu – Most Luxurious Option
Casa Lulu is a hotel with a touch of minimalism and luxury. It has the best sea views, beautiful and spacious rooms, great breakfast options, and an extremely friendly and pleasant staff. You can also cool off in the outdoor pool or warm yourself with the fire pit.
The Inn at Mazatlan – Great Budget Option
The Inn at Mazatlan is a budget beachfront hotel that gives you an ocean view, spa, gym, and a large outdoor pool. There are also a lot of activities to do for families with children like pottery painting, eating contests, and water sports.
Hotel Luxury Patio Azul – Overall Best Option
Hotel Luxury Patio Azul is perhaps one of the best and most affordable 5-star hotels you’ll come across in Puerto Vallarta. You can expect a magnificent oceanfront view from your room, a thoughtfully designed bar, and an outdoor swimming pool to die for. It also has a few beaches nearby the hotel.
Hotel Mousai – Most Luxurious Option
The Adults-only Hotel Mousai is the best option if you want to make the most of your stay in Puerto Vallarta. It is a diamond resort with a roof-top infinity pool, and a private beach, and is a short walk away from Garza Blanca Beach.
BellView Hotel Boutique – Great Budget Option
The BellView Boutique Hotel is an old hotel located Downtown. It gives you breathtaking views of the city on top of the balcony and features thoughtfully designed rooms.
Mazatlan VS Puerto Vallarta Conclusion: Which One is Better?
Mexico is one of the best places to travel to and the two resort cities Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta are just begging to be explored.
Both cities include great destinations, hotels that offer beautiful ocean views, good food, and an enjoyable nightlife. However, the choice between the two comes down to your personal preferences.
Unlike Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan has a more local vibe allowing you to meet locals. They charge local prices allowing you to save money as well.
In Puerto Vallarta, you have many more options to explore despite the smaller beaches which makes it a great place if you’re feeling adventurous.
Choose Mazatlan if you plan on having a longer stay and want a more authentic view of the culture. Visit Mexico Puerto Vallarta if you have more money to spare and want to get the most thrilling experience.